I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Editor
It’s not supernatural: the shrill screams of our children and all-encompassing exhaustion of motherhood warrant throwing in the towel sometimes. And with this week’s release of BAD MOMS, it’s time to live vicariously.
In BAD MOMS, a group of mothers (Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell) are tired of their typical urban existence. You know, getting the kids ready for school, making their breakfast, packing their lunch, taking them to school, picking them up from school, taking them to their extracurricular activities, making them dinner, putting them to bed — rinse and repeat.
The monotonous daily list is as long as it is frustrating. But hey, we do it out of the sheer love for our children. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t fantasize about cutting loose and getting wild.
To overcome the stagnation in their lives, the three “bad moms” simply say, “no.” No more are they giving into the ideal life of motherhood. Instead, they drive their husband’s hot rods to work, shotgun milk and liquor in groceries stores and poke fun at the goody two shoes who know no different.
BAD MOMS may not be the best exploration of this notion — it pushes the envelope a little too far in some scenes, is desperate for laughs and predictable — but the characters and their silly antics are just too fun not to enjoy.
So if you’re in dire need of a ladies’ night in, pop this in your Blu-ray player, crack open a bottle of wine and let the film unload its mad case of the giggles.
Extras: Deleted scenes, a gag reel and rather sweet collection of interviews with the cast and their respective mothers.
Back just in time to mark the 50th anniversary of the original television series launch, STAR TREK BEYOND homes in on the five-year mission of Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and friends to explore the final frontier that is space. Because, after all, the true mission of this series is to “explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life forms and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”
BEYOND doesn’t necessarily go venture into new territory. It faithfully follows the same story beats and tropes we’ve come to know from the franchise. While the story stays the course, there are plenty of photon torpedoes, galactic battles or toured alien worlds to leave you wide-eyed.
It’s bigger and louder than the series and its predecessors ever were, but director Justin Lin (FAST & FURIOUS franchise) shows there is as much heart as there are thrills underneath Beyond’s hood to give your home collection the feel-good and entertaining movie you need.
Extras: The special features come fully loaded, including deleted scenes, several making-of and behind-the-scenes featurettes, and — most notably — a touching tribute to the legendary Leonard Nimoy and beloved crewmember Anton Yelchin.
A millionaire becomes a cat in order to learn the value of everything he’s taken for granted — Surely, someone lost a bet or got blackmailed into making this. Because you have Barry Sonnenfeld (MEN IN BLACK movies) directing Kevin Spacey (he doesn’t deserve to sink to Eddie Murphy NORBIT level), Jennifer Garner (who made a good children’s movie already this year with MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN) and Christopher Walken (who always seems to play that omnipotent guy with jokes — CLICK, anyone?).
All these talents agreed to be in this flick about a dude inhabiting a cat’s body. Did I mention the cat [artificially] meows the entire movie, gets drunk and pees on the floor, falls from a multi-storey building and lives (hints the title, I suppose), dances with people and eats Fruity Pebbles?
This is the kind of straight-to-DVD material you find at a Dollar General, but for some reason, it has all these gifted people in it. Maybe they wanted to make a movie to amuse four-year-olds or adults for all the wrong reasons. I can honestly say I laughed at it for all the wrong reasons. So if that’s what they set out to make, good job — you did it!
Extras: A 12-minute making-of (Letting the Cat Out of the Bag) and a 14-minute featurette (Russian for Herding Cats) about working with the seven cats who portrayed Mr. Fuzzypants.
Hitting the festival circuit when Matthew McConaughey’s screen presence was iron hot, THE SEA OF TREES had all the markings of an exceptional film. Gus Van Sant’s direction also contributed to this ocean of curiosity. However, good things don’t always last, as THE SEA OF TREES is a tedious examination of marriage and life.
It follows academic mathematician Arthur (McConaughey) as he journeys into the Japanese forest of Aokigahara (known for its high rate of suicides) to seemingly end his own life. However, along the way, he runs into another fellow in despair (Ken Watanabe), which in turn, causes both men to save themselves from the brink of death and embark on a spiritual quest.
Van Sant (GOOD WILL HUNTING, MILK) has a career that proves he’s capable of producing good work. But whether it’s the emotionally manipulative nature the film or its illogical final act, THE SEA OF TREES was just not meant to be Van Sant’s saving grace.
Extras: A special featurette on the “beauty and tragedy” within the film’s story.
Inspired by real events, Daniel Radcliffe (HARRY POTTER, SWISS ARMY MAN) portrays an FBI agent who goes undercover to infiltrate a group of white supremacists building a dirty bomb.
Co-starring Toni Collette, IMPERIUM is a nail-biting thriller that showcases powerful performances and sharp writing to applaud.
Extras: Audio commentary with co-writer-director Daniel Ragussis and co-writer Michael German, a making-of, a featurette on living the undercover life, and interviews with the cast and crew.
Also available on DVD and streaming: ANTHROPOID, BATMAN: RETURN OF THE CAPED CRUSADERS, BILLIONAIRE RANSON, CARNAGE PARK (our review here), HELL ON WHEELS: THE COMPLETE SERIES, MY BLIND BROTHER (interview and review), OUTLANDER: SEASON 2, SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET IN CONCERT (available through ShoutFactory.com).